Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 322 - (25/10/07)
Tajikistan ten years on
It has been 10 years since the end of Tajikistan's civil war. An expert panel,
convened recently in Washington to evaluate the post-war era, generally lauded
Tajikistan's reconstruction process. But panelists had differing views on the
factors that contributed to stabilization.
One of the panelists, Vladimir Sotirov, the head of the UN Tajikistan
Peace-Building Support Office (UNTOP), cited the decision to integrate former
administration opponents into the government as a major factor that enabled
Tajikistan to recover relatively quickly from five years of internecine
conflict. Sotirov also indicated that firm action taken by President Imomali
Rahmon's administration against hold-out rebel groups enabled peace to take
Sotirov spoke at a panel at the Central Asia Caucasus Institute on October 17
called "A Decade of Peace in Tajikistan: Who Should Get the Credit?"
He was visiting Washington as part of a trip to the United States to report on
the end of the UNTOP mission. UNTOP formally shut its doors on July 31 - the
first such mission to do so, he noted. (UN peace-building support offices are a
relatively new invention and the three others that have been established, in
Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic, remain in operation).
Sotirov focused on the UN's role in maintaining peace in Tajikistan, such as the
creation of political discussion clubs where former enemies could amicably
discuss the country's future. Such a forum helped Tajikistan make up for the
lack of democratic institutions, he said.
Scepticism still required
Other panelists were not as quick to apportion credit, noting that, as with the
civil war, post-war actions of the major parties are still shrouded in mystery.
One, Grant Smith, a former US envoy to Tajikistan, suggested that a full
reckoning of the civil war's aftermath is not yet possible.
"When you look at how important these various players were in achieving the
quite commendable degree of peace that's been achieved in Tajikistan, what their
roles were - we really don't know because we really don't have some of the key
facts," Smith said. "We don't have the personal recollections of the
players, and we may never have them. The head of the Islamic Renaissance Party,
[Said Abdullo] Nuri, has died. One of his top lieutenants is seriously ill.
Unless people start recording in some means their recollections of that period,
we may never know the answers to these questions."
Another panel member, S. Frederick Starr of the CACI, commended the UN on its
focus on local government officials, which he said was an often overlooked
aspect of development and democratization.
Security still a big problem
Sotirov described, for example, the UNTOP training given to 4,000 Ministry of
Interior officials, including former opposition fighters who were integrated
into the security forces as part of the 1997 peace deal. "They were lacking
any experience, any professionalism, any knowledge and a lot depend[ed] on MoI
personnel, especially in the aftermath of the civil war. Officers knew how to
perform their oppressive function, but they didn't know their other two main
functions ... preventative and protection of human rights of citizens."
Several challenges remain, Sotirov noted. The drug trade in Afghanistan is a
potential destabilizing factor, as 10 percent of the drugs smuggled out of
Afghanistan go through Tajikistan (perhaps 80 tonnes of last years harvest).
Internally, Tajikistan faces slow progress on several fronts, including freedom
of the press and prison reform.
Media freedom dicey
Concerning press freedom, Sotirov acknowledged that progress has been halting.
"You might find very interesting, critical and objective materials in
newspapers. However, the newspapers do not reach people; they are just for the
elite in the cities. They don't have influence," he noted.
"The major influence is TV, which is very restricted, very
The ICRC leaves regretfully
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which had worked to improve
prison conditions there, left Tajikistan this year because it was unable to make
any progress, he said. The ICRC left "with a lot of pain, a lot of
regret," Sotirov said. "Because the international community was ready
to assist. We organized several conferences on prison reform. But the request
was only to 'give us money to repair the prisons.' But this is not the way the
ICRC works; this is not the way of cooperation."
Sotirov said he was optimistic about Tajikistan's future. "There are two
ways: further democratization, a long difficult way but finally this proves to
be the way for sustainability of the peace process. The other is
authoritarianism, it gives very quick results, on the surface everything is
stable, everything is disciplined and going well. However, this is not
sustainable," he said. "We hope the democratic trend will